Norwich City Council cuts package agreed
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City Hall leaders have agreed to push ahead with a package of cuts which will help save Norwich City Council £4.6m - but will see the closure of public toilets, Christmas lighting reduced and higher charges for burials and allotments.
And the leader of the council, as her cabinet agreed to take forward the proposed savings, warned “even harsher” cuts could follow in the year after next.
More than 1,500 people responded to the city council’s consultation over cuts, which asked the public to help pick how to save £600,000 by ranking services in order of importance.
At a meeting of the city council’s cabinet last night, it was agreed to press ahead with those cuts, which will include: • Reducing the amount of Christmas lighting in Norwich (saving £20,000)
• Increasing the cost of an allotment to an average of £70 a year (saving £19.000)
• Upping the cost of burials from £518 to £630 and the price of plots from £715 to £860 (saving £30,000)
• Reducing grass verge cutting from once a fortnight to once a month (saving £40,000)
• Charging people for replacement wheelie bins (saving £40,000)
• Suspending tree planting except in conservation areas (saving £60,000)
• No longer subsidising Norwich yacht station (saving £20,000)
Behind the scenes, £3.5m will be saved through what the council describes as “a package of efficiency, back office and strategic savings”.
The council says it cannot comment on the scale of any job losses that might include because consultation with staff needs to take place and the public and press were excluded from the section of last night’s meeting where that was discussed.
The cabinet also agreed to carry out further work on a package of “specific savings” to save just over £340,000.
Brenda Arthur, leader of Norwich City Council, said: “We have some really stark choices to make and this situation is not of our making.
“None of us came into public service to make decisions like we have to make at this meeting, but we have done our very best to listen to what people have told us and looked at the bigger pictures.
“We have to be mindful that this is the start of the process and we may, in the year after next, have to look at even harsher options.”
The package of cuts has been criticised by the Liberal Democrat group at City Hall. They set up their own Consult Norwich website consultation, saying the public were not given enough opportunity to come up with genuine alternatives.
Judith Lubbock, leader of the Lib Dem group, said: “Liberal Democrats at City Hall have consistently said that rather than hitting frontline services the council should be saving money by cutting the overall salary of the senior management team, reducing the £1.4m bill for private consultants, reducing the £400,000 a year communications budget, and sharing back office services with other local councils.
“These areas need to be looked at before we begin closing public toilets or charging people more to bury their dead.”
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